Discipline or Punishment? What really works?

In order to better understand the difference between discipline, and punishment lets evaluate them.


Disciplining is about teaching your teen right from wrong in a positive way with a definite emphasis on nurturing, and guidance. When disciplining a teen, you are relating to them, and how their misbehaviour has consequences. By doing this, you are teaching acceptance by self-discipline, and responsibility for their actions.

If done right, discipline is a road map to future behaviour of your teen, without making them feel bad about themselves or you as their parent.


Punishment, on the other hand, relates to consequences that are created to control misbehaviour, which includes removing privileges, grounding, or withholding allowances. By punishing your teen, you may feel that you are in control of them, but it will only end in your teen finding new and creative ways to continue their bad behaviour.

Punishment is also one of the major causes of rebellion in teenagers, further heightening the misdeed and punishment cycle.

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What Punishment Really Does

Punishment will only serve as a control method for a short time, but the social consequences on a teen that is punished can be quite a different story.

Teens who are punished are made to feel weak, and incapable. By punishing, you are teaching them to look to external authority in order to determine how they should act, and behave, rather than looking within themselves, and finding the answers in past learning experiences.

When punishing your teen, you are in fact teaching them not to make their own choices, decide for themselves what is good for them, or who is important to them. You are actually teaching your teen to submit to authority, and obey those who are more powerful than they are.

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If you treat your teen as an inferior person, they will become inferior. Without the power to develop individual love and trust, they will fear you, and hide behaviour that is unsatisfactory to you out of fear, rather than choice.

What About Grounding?

Grounding as a punishment is generally a consequence of choice in the heat of the moment when a parent wants to punish their teen, and see the effects that it has on them. Punishing your teen in this way will only drive them further away from you, as well as increase their tension, fear of you, anxiety, and increase bad feelings toward you, and the authority that you have taken over them.

If Grounding Doesn’t Work, What Does? Your teen is fast approaching adulthood, and will appreciate being treated as an adult-in-training, rather than a child. So treat them with respect, and negotiate an agreement with them, rather than tell them what they must do. Make your agreements with your teen before a misdeed arises, without mentioning the consequences.


An agreement that is based on persuasion will be looked upon more favourably by your teen simply because you are not dictating to them what is expected. You are partnering in a decision that will benefit you both. You are also being respectful to your teen’s individuality as they feel that they are being given a choice.

If your teen breaks the agreement, then a logical consequence related to the agreement should be discussed, not dictated. For example, if the agreement was made around collecting their dinner plate, and dishes from the table after a meal, the consequence should be related to the unwashed dishes, by simply making your teen wash, and put away their own dishes after a meal.